Fargo S1E1 - "The Crocodile's Dilemma" Recap

In the opening of FX's new series, Fargo, we see Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thronton) crash his car to try to avoid hitting a deer. It's then that a nearly-nude man escapes from the trunk of his car. We then see Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman) having breakfast with his wife Pearl (Kelly Holden Bashar). She is nagging him about how his career is not progressing as nicely as his brother. She tells him he should try more, smile, and wear a nicer tie, even though she bought him that tie.

Later, Lester is bullied on the street by a local jerk and bully from their school days named Sam Ness, who is grooming his sons to be as much of a goon as him. After insulting him and his wife, and threatening him, he frightens Lester into walking into a window. Lester breaks his nose and ends up in the hospital lobby, sitting near Lorne.

Lorne is curious about Lester and asks him how he broke his nose. As the conversation continues, Lorne is able to coax more and more details out of Lester. Lorne tells him that if he had been in that position, he would have killed that man. Lester seems taken aback by Lorne's deadpan delivery. Lester offhandedly jokes that Lorne should kill him but Lorne questions whether he is serious. The conversation is punctuated with background strings screeching, which may be likened to that heard in the climactic scene of Psycho.

Lorne asks him to just give him a "yes" or "no" answer and Lester is too shocked to answer before heading off to get his nose tended to. Some local officers find Lorne's car off the road, with blood on the steering wheel. They find a dead deer in the trunk and blood footprints leading away from the vehicle. They follow the footprints and find the dead man frozen in the woods that had previously escaped from Lorne's trunk.

Later, Lorne visits Sam's sons and finds them rough housing. He tells them they're doing it wrong and instructs them on how to fight before they ask what he wants. He smirks when they begin bickering like children. Sam comes down with some associates and Lorne makes a snide remark about Sam's younger son. His sons tell their dad to hit him but he says he will restrain himself since he has a head injury. Lorne says he just wanted to get a look at him, scopes him out, and walks out. It's a continuation of Lorne's eerie mannerisms that leave viewers wandering what is brewing beneath the surface.

Lester and Pearl head to his brother's place for a family dinner and it's little more than another tedious suburban occasion. That is until Lester's brother shows him his collection of illegal weapons. His brother is angry when Lester drops a weapon and they argue about his life of being a screw-up. He says that Pearl has grown fed-up with him and that sometimes he tells his co-workers he has dead because it's less embarrassing that way. Lester ends up hitting his brother when he makes one too many insults to him. I have to wonder if that collection of weapons will make another appearance down the line.

Lorne has a phone call with a man for whom he had apparently committed the murder. He then pays a visit to the local strip club where Sam is having sex with a stripper, that she's pretending to enjoy, and stabs him in the head. The same officers from before are called to the scene and they discuss rumours of Sam being involved with organised crime and gun trafficking. The female officer who poses the theory, Molly Thorne, almost seems intrigued at the possibility of having such a serious crime take place in their small town.

Lorne is shown to be an agent of chaos that gets off on manipulating the people around him. He gets the woman who runs the motel at which he is staying to attack a boy she had been mistreating after first getting the boy to urinate in her gasoline tank. Then he calls Sam Hess' elder son posing as the one in charge of his father's estate to tell him that all of his assets have been left to Sam's younger son, prompting the boy to call his brother outside and beat him with a shovel, before Molly, who is at the house runs out and tackles him to stop the violence.

Lester is shocked to learn of Sam's death and asks upon finding Lorne, asks if he killed him. Lorne tells him that he never said no and begins monologuing yet again. No doubt he is planting more seeds in Lester's mind that will cause him to act out just as he has done to these other people in the town.

Following this encounter, Lester attempts to fix the washing machine at home and when he fails to do so, his wife goes off on a tangent about how he's not a man and how she doesn't know why she married him. She calls him a loser and he demands that she take that back. He threatens her with a hammer and she laughs at him, prompting him to beat her to death with it.

After putting his clothes into a bag, he calls Lorne to tell him what has happened and implores him to come over and help. While waiting for Lorne to arrive, officer Vern Thurman arrives to ask him about his meeting Lorne at the hospital, which Molly had made the connection of. He spots the trail of blood and orders Lester to get on the ground before looking down into the basement and seeing Pearl's bloody body. Right as Vern is calling in for backup, Lorne sneaks up from behind and blows him away with a shotgun Lester had pulled out.

As Lorne goes to look at the scene in the basement, Lester spots the squad car pulling up. He goes down to the basement and finds that Lorne has disappeared. Molly radios in for backup upon seeing Vern's dead body and Lester resorts to running into the wall to knock himself out, echoing the way he had broken his nose at the episode's beginning. This is of course an attempt to deflect (rightful) blame that would have otherwise been placed on him. Following this horrific discovery, Molly is left to inform Vern's pregnant wife with news of his death.

Deputy Gus Grimly pulls Lorne over, due to some questionable driving manoeuvres. But when he tries to get Lorne out of the car, he's simply able to calmly, but frighteningly talk him into letting him go. It's a fitting end to this introduction episode, as Lorne's ability to use rhetoric to manipulate people into acting according to his wishes will no doubt be one of the central parts of Fargo. Lester wakes in the hospital, stressed about the manner in which his life has turned, and because he has an injury on his hand from the shotgun. Could it be what leads to his capture? Stay tuned to find out.

Fargo airs on Tuesdays on FX at 10PM.


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